Repetition, repetition, repetition.
I want my kids to understand the why's and not just the what's, but some things can only be learned through brute force memorization. For example, ever tried to find a pattern, some basic logic to help explain the seemingly nonexistent rules of past tense grammar in English? I have and it's not pretty. The regular verbs (the ones that just take on -ed) are few and far between. The best I could do was group like verbs- thought/bought/brought and kept/slept/swept- to make our verb chants more poetic and thus more memorable. Sometimes it sucks to only have whatever excuse for a textbook I carry around in my head.
One of our daily repeated drills goes,
"A sentence begins with a-"
"and ends with a-"
My aunt, my godmother and an elementary teacher in Missouri, gave me one of the highest compliments I've received in quite a while:
She called me a real teacher.
Not a high school graduate doing volunteer work, but a real teacher. Imagine that! I feel like Pinocchio with the strings snipped :)
Her simple affirmation made me take a second look at the work I'm doing in Ghana. I mean, I've always known that what I'm doing is absolutely worthwhile, but sometimes...being worthwhile doesn't necessarily mean it always feels worth it. I feel like I've been walking around in a smog of negativity and burnt-out-ness lately, ever since it really sank in that I can't do it all. I can't save the world or fix the system or even- and most discouragingly- seem to fight the system. I also seem to be the last person to have this realization that I am not Superman.
....But if I'm a real teacher, then maybe I don't have to be Superman after all.
I know I've made a difference in these kids' lives. And I'm hoping it's a difference that goes beyond the fact that they can spell "puddle" and identify the future tense now. I know I will probably never feel like I've done enough, but I hope that sometimes I will be able to shut up my inner perfectionist long enough to take a step back and let myself bask in my kids' achievements...and perhaps even acknowledge my own contributions to them. Sure, I still get assignments where the only capital letter is the the 'b' in football or the 'y' in happy or there's a full page of writing without a period in sight, but they're making great improvements overall.
My inner perfectionist will only stay muted for so long though. Sigh. There is always more to be done.
After all, according to Jackline a sentence begins with a capital letter and ends with a kitten.